ANCHORING IN STRONG WINDS WITH SAFETY AND CONFIDENCE (PART 2)

Envoy is berthed in Greece’s Lefkas Marina while Diane and are home in Auckland. We’re not planning any major Med cruising this year, but hope to visit Lefkas around mid August to check on Envoy and cruise until end October.
Pacific Passagemaker magazine recently published an article we’d written on anchoring in strong winds.
Here’s the second of two parts of an edited version of that article.
So Part One has put our vessel into a suitable bay for anchoring.
Much is written about different anchors and their supposed advantages but provided your vessel has a recognised mainstream type of anchor your security will be determined more by your anchoring technique including the weight of chain you have on the seabed.
This article assumes your vessel has totally adequate ground tackle and that is a whole subject in itself. Our main anchor is a 40 kg (88 pound) Delta Setfast with 400 feet of 10.8mm BBB chain and having anchored nearly 2,000 times can only recall Envoy dragging anchor twice (once of which was during a non-forecast 60 knot wind).
A commonly used method to calculate the required length of chain is to add the maximum expected water depth at high tide to the distance from the anchor roller to the water and then multiply that figure by five, six or seven times depending on the conditions. However this formula doesn’t work so well in very shallow water or deep water. I prefer to allow for the depth of water plus 30-40 metres of chain on the bottom.

We rarely go into harbours or marinas as it’s too expensive when living aboard

In very strong winds we lay out as much chain as possible, even up to ten times total depth while keeping in mind the proximity of other vessels and the consequences of a wind shift. Of course you must be able to monitor how much chain you are paying out using a chain counter or marks on the chain (we use coloured cable ties).
Our anchoring technique is to very slowly motor upwind and stop in the position where we want our anchor to sit, pay out chain until the anchor is almost to the bottom and then give a short burst of reverse thrust so that Envoymoves astern no faster than the speed at which chain is paying out. We don’t advocate allowing the anchor chain to free-fall until the anchor is on the bottom and reverse movement has commenced as chain can otherwise become tangled around the anchor while it’s dropping. However once the anchor is on the bottom, free falling the chain does save wear on the windlass motor. In our experience and observations of other vessels, if too much reverse power is applied immediately on laying the anchor it will often result in dragging the anchor along the bottom, particularly if the bottom is mud or covered in weed. We prefer to first give the anchor time to settle onto the bottom and dig in properly. We then observe whether the vessel is holding and if all is OK after about 15 minutes we motor forward about half the distance of the chain length and then let the vessel drift back with the wind. The anchor will fully dig in when it stops the vessel’s backwards drift and then we apply a little reverse thrust to ensure the anchor holds. When the vessel “bounces back” on its rope rode you know it’s holding.

Envoy in superb Zaklopalica, Croatia

In strong winds it is important to use a heavy duty and longer than usual anchor rode to act as a good spring. We set this up with the snubbing fitting just below water level and with several feet of chain hanging on the vessel side of the fitting to add to the spring effect. Now we record our GPS position and activate our anchor and depth alarms to monitor any dragging.
If depth, water temperature and visibility allow we check the anchor using a mask and snorkel to ensure the anchor is well set and not obstructed.
We then make preparations for the coming blow, ensuring all gear on deck is securely lashed down, buffers are readily available in case of another vessel dragging into ours, and that we are able to drop or cut the anchor chain with a buoy in an emergency. 
If there are other vessels nearby we put our buffers in position. 
We prefer to leave our tender in the water in case it’s needed, but secure it well close behind Envoy’sstern. Never leave a lightweight tender on its painter behind your vessel in a strong wind as you may lose it or it may flip upside down.

Secure at anchor in Croatia’s Loviste

Now is a good time to think what may happen if there is a significant wind shift or a need to move. Check the anchorage using radar and plotter during daylight to know exactly how it looks, because everything looks very different by night. It’s also a good idea for the skipper to get some sleep during the daytime when others can more easily monitor and handle any situation.
Before darkness arrives rig your spotlights, have flashlights to hand, turn the radar on standby, and ensure the engine is ready to start in case of any emergency arising, such as the need to avoid a dragging vessel, or the need to reduce strain on the anchor in very high gusts. As skipper, I also sleep in the pilot house so that I can constantly monitor the situation and react quickly.
When the strong wind arrives it’s usual to see sheets of spray lifted off the surface of the water and wind waves up to about two or three feet, even in a sheltered bay with little fetch.
Sometimes your vessel will appear to drag a few metres as the chain straightens out along the seabed, so don’t be in too much of a hurry to move if the position alarm sounds.
Of course there is usually some trepidation and a need to maintain a state of high alert, but by following the above procedures we’ve safely and comfortably anchored though many blows.
We’ve never encountered winds above 70 knots and realise that circumstances may be very different in winds of for example 90 knots or more.
The “strength” of wind does not increase in a linear way relative to wind speed, but dramatically more so as the square of the difference. For example to compare the strength of a 40 knot wind with a 20 knot wind:
20 knots squared = 400
40 knots squared = 1600
So a 40 knot wind is 4 times as strong as a 20 knot wind.
Similarly a 90 knot wind is nearly twice the strength of a 70 knot wind.
We’ll be happy not to experience trying to anchor in those conditions.
Happy and safe anchoring.

Heading to Canada May 2, 2018 to May 21, 2018

Wednesday, May 2nd – We were able to pick up the U-Haul the evening before our departure so we started loading it as soon as we got home.  In the morning we finished loading and headed out for our first stop – Texarkana, TX.Thanks to our friend Sa…

May 18 – Hammondsports, NY

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

Since it was a nice day we decided to take a drive over to Keuka Lake and check out the little town of Hammondsport. This cute little village sits at the south end of Keuka (Q ka) Lake, which is two lakes west of Cayuga Lake. Keuka Lake is one of the few Y-shaped lakes in the world and considered by many to be the most scenic of the Finger Lakes…we definitely thought it was amazingly picturesque. Hammondsport was voted “Coolest Small Town in America” by readers of Budget Travel. It too is very picturesque with historic homes and buildings. The town square is filled with restaurants, boutiques, art gallerias and antique shops. There are several museums in the area and many wineries that have wonderful views of the lake.
CONTINUE READING HERE…»

London, UK to Harlingen, NL

From London we made a 267-mile run to Harlingen, NL to pickup our new tender before continuing on to Norway. We spent a peaceful night anchored at Stangate Creek near the mouth of the Thames before making an overnight run to Harlingen so that we would arrive in the morning on a rising tide. Except…

Inside Passage to Alaska part one

Day 1: Sidney to Thetis Island: Today we are beginning our trip up the inside passage to Alaska. Our goal is to reach Glacier Bay by July 4 . We have been granted a much coveted permit to enter Glacier Bay July 5-11th. You can apply for these permits 60 days in advance. Only 13 […]

Yesterday sucked. Today’s better.

I’ve had my IROC-Z in a storage container at a local business since last year. I bought winter tires for the Jeep off the young fella running the place and he let me store my summer wheels in there as well. Stopped in there yesterday to get them and th…

May 17 – Cascadilla Gorge Trail

Allan H. Treman State Marine ParkUpstate New York…so many lakes, so many cute towns, so many wineries, so many waterfalls, so many trails and so many beautiful places to explore. A beautiful day means we go out and play, so today we rode our bikes up…

St. Katharine Docks

St. Katharine Docks in London was a fabulous base for a winter visit to London. In addition to the marina, the St. Katharine Docks complex includes nearly a dozen excellent restaurants, is adjacent to the Tower of London, within walking distance of many other local attractions and restaurants, and convenient to public transport. And the…

Northbound 2018: Express to Morehead City

As noted in the previous article, we departed Venice at 1140 hours on Saturday. Our goal was a fuel stop in Morehead City North Carolina, which is approximately 900 NM from Sarasota.By early Sunday morning we were off Everglades National Park when we f…

Northbound 2018: Overheat Alarm Out of the Gate

Reader Note: This blog has been silent since the last trip south from Hinghan to Sarasota, which, incidentally, set what I believe will be an all-time record for cooperative weather and running time (i.e., 7 days and 7 hours).  My lack of activity resulted from being heavily involved in editing my daughter, Lesley’s, doctoral dissertation and a bit of laziness. Lesley successfully defended her dissertation in March and graduated from Northeastern University’ College of Professional Studies with an Ed.D on May 10th.

Now to our story. As usual, the process of transitioning our residence from Sarasota to Hingham involves preparation including crew, maintenance, food, weather and, most critical for this trip, the route out of Sarasota Bay.

The crew decision came early in December when Morgan Watt decided to do another journey. Morgan crewed with me in 2017 with Guy Aries so this would be his second time. Morgan is eminently qualified as second in command as he has both a pilot’s and captain’s license. Morgan flew jets for NetJets for 17 years. Needless to say, he brings considerable experience with navigation, communication and weather. Morgan nominated his father, David, as the third member of our crew. David too has boating experience and has taught boating safety classes.

David Watt, Morgan Watt and myself at departure.
My friend, Jim Lampl, in the background cam to see us off

Food for the journey north is a “no brainer.” Morton’s Gourmet Market provides prepared entrees, called “Gourmet Meals To Go,”and their executive chef, Fernando, prepared some special dishes including mushroom ravioli; Dijon chicken with fingerling potatoes and Brussell sprouts; and chicken pico degallo with fingerling potatoes and green beans. Add to this their standard fare including grilled salmon, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, veal cannaloni and eggplant rollatini and you have the makings of gourmet meals. The rest of the provisioning process is outlined on an Excel worksheet. The key to provisioning is to have food for 9 days. That requires 27 dinner entrees which are frozen and stored in the freezer. When we depart Sarasota or Hingham the freezer and refrigerators are stocked close to capacity. Fortunately, the 63 has a full size GE Monogram side by side refrigerator.

Maintenance. Dealing with repairs and maintenance during the winter of 2018 in Sarasota proved to be an exercise in frustration and considerable expense. Needless to say, almost every repair required multiple visits by my service personnel. They literally could not fix anything it right the first time. I may treat this a separate blog article, perhaps as a way of venting my frustration. We finally finished all maintenance and repair tasks on day before departure.

Now to weather. As of Friday morning at 10:45 AM we had favorable conditions all the way to Cape Hatteras. Winds off the Florida Keys were forecasted to be around 10 knots with seas 2 to 3 feet on Saturday. Heading north off Cape Canaveral the forecast called for north winds 10 to 15 with 2 to 3 feet seas on Sunday. Farther north on Monday, at Jekyll Island Georgia, NOAA was calling for east north east at 10 to 15 knots with seas 3 to 4 feet. Waters off Cape Fear on Tuesday showed winds less than 10 knots and seas 2 to 4 feet. Finally at Cape Hatteras they were calling for west winds 10 to 20 with seas 3 to 6, which for us would be mostly a following sea.

The next important decision is how to depart from Sarasota Bay. This decision involves tides, winds and seas. The easiest way is via Sarasota Big Pass. But this route comes with a tricky ever shifting shoal at the mouth of the pass. The slowest and safest way is south on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GICW) to Venice. This route, however, involves four (4) bridges and several no wake zones.

This year I chose to map the route through the Big Pass shoal by following the fishing party boat on on its daily run out to the Gulf fishing grounds. My AB RIB is equipped with a depth sounder and Garmin Chartplotter. What I found was a controlling depth (i.e., the shallowest spot) of 6 feet. This strongly suggested that the best time to traverse the route was at high tide. “High tide” in Sarasota adds 2 feet of clearance. So, at the shallowest spot we would have 3 feet of clearance. The high occurred on Friday, August 27, at noon time and that fact and the forecasted seas of 2 feet of less dictated our departure time.

The crew arrived on Friday, April 27 at 11:45 AM and by 12:21 PM we were on our way. At 12:51 , one hour after high tide, we traversed Big Pass. Seas were less than a foot, largely to due to protection of the 2 mile sand bar to the west. Our depth sounders lowest reading on the planned course was 1.5 feet. We were now successfully in the Gulf and headed south.

Around 14:00 I noted an alarm on the stabilizer control panel that read as follows”High Oil Temperature / Warning Only / Check Cooling System.”  This alarm indicated that the hydraulic fluid was overheating. This is a precursor to a full overheat would could damage the system. Catching it early was good news. The bad news is we had to shut down the stabilizers and would not be able to continue the voyage until the problem was resolved.

Fortunately, winds out of the northwest at 10 to 15 and seas under 2 feet were favorable to a complete shut down of both engines. Now adrift approximately 5 NM south west of Venice, Morgan and I began to process of trouble shooting the problem. We immediately noted no water flow at site glass and that hydraulic fluid level was full.  This indicated a blockage somewhere in the cooling system.

Fortunately we were within cell phone range. This facilitated contact with Randy Ives, Outer Reef’s Warranty Manager, and Robert from ABT TRAC, who at the time was located in the United Kingdom. We decided to work with Robert since he was the expert.

We first checked the sea strainer basket. It was clear and this was no surprise and I had verified that all six sea strainers were clean the day before departure. With the sea strainer cap off we opened the through hull fitting and verified the water was flowing freely. We then removed the hose leading from the sea strainer to the impeller. It was clear. We then removed a housing at the impeller and checked that the impeller was spinning. Then we verified water flow from the impeller to the site glass. Water was flowing up to the site glass and this suggested a blockage in the head exchanger.  We then removed the zincs from the heat exchanger and noted that the lower zinc was broken off from the plug and jammed in the hole. The broken zinc was a problem but not sufficient enough to block the water flow.

At this point we had narrowed the blockage to the heat exchanger. If this were the case, we would need, at a minimum, a mixture of hydrochloric acid and water to clean the strainer. Unfortunately we had none aboard. We decided to head for Venice and called the Crows Nest Restaurant for dockage, which was available. The Crows Nest is located just inside the Venice Inlet.

Guided Discovery at the Crow’s Nest

Venice was approximately 5 NM to the northeast and we headed for the inlet. This put the seas, which had build 2 to 3 feet, on the port side. As we traveled northeast we noted that engine bilge light on the annunciator panel (over the helm) was indicating that the bilge pump was operating. We appeared to be taking on water. Sure enough, that was the case. I discovered that the port side engine room port hole was open. Worse, the 24 volt battery charger that sits just aft of the port hole has shorted out due to salt water entering through the cooling vents (a $1,300 loss). I have never opened any port holes. Hence checking for open portholes is not on my Engine Room Checklist.

I surmised that when Master’s Touch Marine Services technician, Joey, replaced the 220 volt ISO Boost transformer he had left the port hole opened. I then notified Master’s Touch’s owner, Jeff Quattlebaum, of the error only to learn that Jeff, himself had opened the port hole when he was painting the 16KW generator. Jeff forgot to close it.

He then refused to take responsibility.  First he claimed that it was my responsibility to check for an open porthole. I showed him the engine Room Check list and pointed out that checking for open portholes in not part of my procedure as I do not open the engine portholes or any portholes for that matter. Then he claimed that he verbally had told me that the window was open, which was blatantly untrue.

I found Jeff’s response to the problem regrettable on several counts. The most troubling was that he had driven to Venice to address a problem with my hydraulic heat exchanger (although he was planning to be there anyhow). As a concession, he agreed not to charge me for the trip to Venice and the 90 minutes to clean the heat exchanger. Unfortunately, the cost of replacing the MasterVolt charger was $1,315, which is what Jeff charged me a rear sgo when he replaced the same unit as the result of an internal failure. However, he also terminated our service relationship and threatened that I would not be able to get service in the future from Marina Jack Services. I found the whole transaction totally unacceptable.

This was not the first time that Jeff’s was careless. During a repair to a hydraulic leak at my stern thruster in December 2016 he mistakenly shut off my hydraulic steering ball valve located immediately above the thruster to stop the flow of hydraulic fluid. It did not stop the release of fluid as the two systems are unrelated. Unfortunately, he did not reopen the valve. The result was that weeks later I pulled out of my slip only to discover I had no steering. Fortunately I was able to return to my slip using engines and thrusters. Had I damaged another boat we would have had a serious legal problem related to Jeff’s negligence.

Doing business with Jeff has always been a bit of a challenge. He does not answer his phone and does not communicate. That said, Jeff has done many projects successfully and I regret that we will not continue working together. 

As noted above Jeff fixed the problem (by pouring acid into the heat exchanger) and by 11:40 AM on Saturday we were on our way.

Bottom line: We had lost a full day.



 

Explanatory Note